Fiesta Bowl – #11 LSU Tigers v #8 UCF Knights (Jan 1)

Fiesta Bowl

LSU:

Offense

Passing: In a rare occurrence, the LSU passing game is actually more proficient on the road than at home. Although their completion percentage drops about 2% and the yards per attempt goes down 0.7 yards they’ve had good success with touchdowns. They have almost as many passing touchdowns (1 fewer) in the 5 road games as they do in the 7 home games. They do, however, the same number of interceptions at home and away. They’ll have to be careful to minimize interceptions on the road.

Rushing: The LSU rushing attack is driven by a 3-back stable: Nick Brosette, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Joe Burrow. While Nick Brosette has double the carries of the others; it’s definitely been running back by committee. LSU’s rushing hasn’t been as good as at home, by a decent margin (accounting for the extra home games played). They average 0.4 more rushing touchdowns per game and almost 0.6 yards per attempt better at home. LSU even uses 4 extra attempts per game when away, but they are +7 touchdowns at home.

Defense

Passing: The Tigers are having some trouble defending the passing game on the road. They’ve allowed only 1 shy of double the amount of touchdowns allowed on the road (11) than at home (6). They do reduce the completion percentage of their opponents by about 5%. However, they’ve allowed more opponents to hit pay dirt and had less interceptions. They allow an extra 0.5 yards per attempt on 2.5 more attempts away from home.

Rushing: The LSU defense is also quite a bit better at home. They’ve allowed more touchdowns in 5 road games (8) than they have in 7 home games (5). They do face a couple extra attempts per game on the road, but they also allow an extra 0.5 yards per attempt. The LSU defense will be forced to handle a two-back attack from the Knights.

UCF:

UCF is one of only a few teams to play only 4 away games and 8 home games.

Offense

Passing: The Knights were good at home, but plagued with interceptions. In their limited games on the road they’ve averaged 0.5 touchdowns less per game. However, they’ve thrown only one interception on the road compared to the 5 they have at home. In reality this means they are only averaging about 0.3 more interceptions at home as opposed to on the road. They average 5% higher completion rate and fewer attempts on the road but are still quite successful.

Rushing: In a small sample, the Knights have been awesome at home — and better on the road. They’ve averaged slightly less touchdowns on the road, but they’ve had less attempts too. They are averaging 0.6 more yardage gained per carry. In their 4 games they’ve averaging just under 300 yards per game, which is just over their home numbers.

Defense

Passing: UCF has been pretty similar regardless of location with the exception of the number of passing attempts (which are almost 11 higher) on the road. They allow 3.5% higher completion percentage on the road with substantially less interceptions. At home, this defense is averaging well over 1 interception per game but they average only 0.75 on the road.

Rushing: The Knights have been impressive on the road. They are allowing 0.7 yards less per rushing attempt than they do at home. They are averaging just about 1.5 touchdowns allowed per game at home, but only 1 on the road. They’ve also held their opponents to less than 200 yards rushing.

The Game

The game is played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona with kickoff at 10a PST/ 1p EST). The neutrals are expecting about points 60 to be scored, and LSU to be touchdown favorites.

Keys to a win for each side

LSU: 

  • Bandaids for passes. LSU has to find a way to defend against the passing game. Not quite sure what it will take for the home form to carry over, maybe coach needs to promise beignets for the best player? LSU needs to get the upper hand in the pass game or I think the potential exists for UCF to literally pick them apart. LSU would love to be able to lockdown on the Knights and force them into a running game. LSU’s road rushing defense has been brutal for opposing teams.
  • Low-Risk, low-reward. This needs to be about moving the ball, not about the home run. If you watched the Holiday Bowl, you saw both teams really struggling to move the ball. Initially Northwestern tried to chase and in the second half the Utes were forced into making plays that dramatically increased their turnover numbers. Simple passes are totally ok, in fact, maybe preferred.
  • Play to win, every play. This UCF side is here because they are undefeated. Undefeated teams usually have some strengths– in UCF’s– offense, however, the big knock on the UCF is against who. I’m pretty confident they haven’t faced a defense like LSU. So, they need to own the game in the beginning and make it UCF who needs to chase.

UCF:

  • Get weird. Whatever you’ve been doing on the road is paying dividends, but feel free to use the whole playbook. LSU’s game plan is going to be to try and make the Knights one-dimensional. This opens up opportunity for trick/gimmick plays or for reverses, etc. The Knights haven’t had any troubles moving the ball or scoring and while LSU are favorites — don’t sleep on the Knights game.
  • Feel snubbed. Yes, it sucks to go 12-0 and not be considered one of the top 4 teams in the nation. Trust me, I know. However, this lets the coach play an angle where they are not respected and were snubbed. This can add a bit of add incentive to get the troops all riled up. This is two consecutive years that the CFP have snubbed the Knights. The Knights really want to send a message, game on!
  • Adapt. I don’t believe the Knights have faced anything quite like this SEC defense. Part of the challenge for teams from the “Group of 5” is the massive upgrade in physicality. However, the good teams can adapt. This is another area where the team can prove that a non-power Power 5 team can hang. This team has shown an ability to adapt to every change needed this season, I don’t think that stops here.  

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